May 12, 2023 — Albany, NY — A Forest Preserve group comprised of 32 organizations and municipalities applauds Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State legislature for the state budget, which includes dedicated funding for the Forest Preserve Parks of $8 million under the EPF’s State Land Stewardship line. In the final budget the EPF was also retained at the historic level of $400 million achieved last year.
The Forest Preserve Parks—the Catskills and Adirondacks—are a unique and essential component of New York State's natural heritage. They consist of over three million acres of public lands that are protected and managed by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). These lands include pristine forests, lakes, and rivers, as well as high peaks that offer some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the Northeast. The Forest Preserve Parks also include over three million acres of private land with communities, towns and villages, and private conservation easement lands, many open for public recreation.
The Forest Preserve Parks are an essential component of New York State's economy, generating 3 billion dollars in annual economic activity and supporting thousands of jobs. They also provide critical ecological services, including watershed protection, carbon sequestration, and habitat for endangered and threatened species. The $8 million allocation will be used to support a wide range of activities that enhance the Forest Preserve's protection and accessibility, including trail maintenance and construction, and educational outreach.
Also included in the state budget was a significant investment for Visitor Centers in the Adirondacks and Catskills including a $100,000 line for ADK’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC), $200,000 for the Catskills Visitor Center, and $250,000 each for the Paul Smith's and SUNY ESF Visitor Interpretive Centers.
The coalition also applauds an increase of 265 agency staff in the final budget which will help implement the New York State Environmental for Bond Act.
“The Legislature and the Governor knocked it out of the park when it came to investing in the Catskills in this year’s budget,” said Katherine Nadeau, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Deputy Director. “With more than $6.5 million in direct investments, state dollars are being used to fund Park improvements, wild land protections, invasive species management, and initiatives to support vibrant communities. Every corner of the Region, Park, and Forest Preserve will benefit.
“The New York Outdoor Recreation Coalition (NYORC) is pleased to see the continued and growing funding for the Forest Preserve Parks, which provide bountiful opportunities for outdoor recreation, said Rae Goodman-Lucker, NYORC Program Director. “We are especially excited to see some of our member organizations, the Catskill Visitor Center and ADK, receive targeted funding to support their vital work, including diversity and trail accessibility initiatives. NYORC's works to support and expand outdoor recreation for all, and this increased funding and staffing will help make New York's beautiful Forest Preserve Parks more welcoming, accessible, and available to all.”
“We thank the legislature and Governor Hochul for investing in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks this year. Our leaders understand that investing in the people’s forests, its wilderness, watershed, carbon storage, wildlife habitats and related public education today bring long-term dividends and benefits tomorrow. They know they are investing in a community of life, including small Adirondack and Catskill towns and villages, said David Gibson, Managing Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. “It’s notable that local government leaders seem as enthused about this year’s Environmental Protection Fund as we are.”
“The Catskill Mountain Club thanks Governor Hochul and the legislature for providing these essential resources. The need to greet and interact with visitors exploring the Catskill Park at various locations is critical in sustaining the qualities that define this special region of New York State,” remarked Peter Manning, Executive Director of the Catskill Mountain Club.
“I am particularly pleased to see the increase in funding for both Visitor Use Management and the Adirondack Diversity Initiative,” said ADI co-founder Pete Nelson. “Instead of pitting preservation against access, the State is recognizing that an inclusive approach can and should do both. This budget lets us focus on smart planning that will help us move beyond rhetoric to substantive, equitable management and protection of a jewel that belongs to all New Yorkers.”
"By bringing together the Catskill and the Adirondack Forest Preserves, we have shown that we can do more together than we ever could separately," said Jeff Senterman, Catskill Center Executive Director. "Our broad coalition of environmental organizations, towns and communities, local government, and business interests across the Catskills and Adirondacks showed the Governor and Legislature the importance of these regions to New York's environment and economy and their common goals. We must invest in our open spaces, our clean air and water, and in our towns and villages, to ensure the prosperity and protection of our natural areas and communities. This year's budget makes those investments, and we look forward to building on these successes and ensuring ongoing investment in the Catskills and the Adirondacks."
“The Open Space Institute is grateful to Gov. Hochul and New York State’s legislators for honoring their commitment to the environment by maintaining the historically high $400 million Environmental Protection Fund budget, increasing agency staff to help meet the goals of the Environmental Bond Act, and funding park accessibility improvements and diversity initiatives, said Kathy Moser, Chief Conservation Officer, Open Space Institute. “This investment in the environment shows that our state leaders are willing to take bold steps to protect New York’s natural lands, preserve drinking water sources, safeguard wildlife habitat, and ensure that our incomparable landscapes and parklands are properly staffed and welcoming to all.”
“The dedicated funding in the EPF for the Adirondacks and Catskills shows again the power of a collaborative approach to meet the need for stewardship support and the tremendous concern New York State legislators have for the Forest Preserve Parks, their wildlands and the communities within them," said Bill Farber, Town of Morehouse Supervisor.
“ADK is thrilled to see New York make a significant investment in the Forest Preserve. This funding will help ensure that the Adirondack and Catskill Parks remain protected for years to come,” said Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director.